MyMichigan Medical Center nurses vote to strike

The nurses are looking for a competitive contract in hopes of drawing more nurses to the Alma hospital to alleviate labor shortages and improve conditions.

A 10-day notice will be issued to the hospital prior to a strike.

Nurses at McLaren Central Hospital in Mount Pleasant are voting Thursday to authorize a strike.

The MyMichigan nurses join more than 1,000 nursing home workers represented by the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Michigan who are in the middle of voting.

Those nurses work at 13 nursing homes across Michigan owned by Ciena Healthcare, The Orchards Michigan, Optalis Healthcare, Pioneer Health Care Management and Amee Patel, Kevin Lignell, communications coordinator for SEIU Healthcare Michigan, told Crain’s in an email earlier this week.

Lignell wrote that the workers are demanding “living wages, affordable health care and safe staffing in their nursing homes.”

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Melissa Samuel, president and CEO of the Health Care Association of Michigan, said the sudden loss of 1,000 nurses could spin the entire healthcare sector into chaos. Nursing homes would likely have to reduce patient capacity and rely on expensive agency staff to maintain regulated patient-to-provider ratios.

HACAM is the trade association representing Michigan’s long-term care providers.

Nursing homes were hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic — first in spread of the coronavirus and subsequently in losing workers. The industry lost roughly 210,000 workers nationally and about 10,000 in Michigan.

“We have the appropriate staff to cover the buildings, but the ability to take in more patients and alleviate the bottleneck in the hospital system just isn’t there,” Samuel said. “We’re going to have to work together and identify initiatives to pull people back into the industry. There’s not a single nursing home that’s not trying to hire right now. It’s a health care crisis.”

HCAM is calling for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to distribute the $67 million for long-term care retention, recruitment and training in last year’s supplemental spending bill signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in February last year.

The funding, designed to be awarded through grants, has yet to be distributed, Samuel said. The grant applications were due in August last year.

The nursing home association is also asking the state for the extra $2.35 per hour wage supplement provided to direct-care workers during the pandemic, and continues today, to be extended to all workers in Michigan’s nursing homes.

HCAM is also calling for the state to boost Medicaid reimbursement rates, which have risen 5 percent since 2019, but don’t align with costs that have risen more than 15 percent from inflation and increased wages, Samuel said.

This story first appeared in Crain’s Detroit Business.

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